Blues beat Blackhawks 2-1, clinch division title
ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis trailed first-place Nashville by nine points in the Central Division on Feb. 24. On Thursday night, the Blues celebrated their first division title since 2011-12.
Paul Stastny scored the clincher, Dmitrij Jaskin broke a 16-game scoreless string and Jake Allen made 21 saves in the Blues 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
The Blues wrapped up the division title and home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs when Nashville lost to Minnesota later Thursday night.
''We've had that focus all year and it's led to a lot of success,'' captain David Backes said. ''A division championship in this division means a lot.''
Stastny, who put the game away with a third-period goal that pushed the lead to 2-0, said the comeback was the result of hard work.
''We went through some ups and downs and now we're playing good hockey,'' Stastny said. ''We're peaking at the right time and that's the most important thing for us.''
St. Louis has 107 points, tied with Anaheim the Western Conference lead, though Anaheim holds the tie-breaker. On Saturday in their final regular-season games, St. Louis has a home game against Minnesota, and Anaheim is at Arizona.
''We've come a long ways back to catch Nashville in what looks to be the toughest division in hockey,'' St. Louis Ken Hitchcock said. ''Winning the division, getting home ice, any advantage you can get, is going to be really important.''
Jaskin poked in a rebound of a shot by Alex Pietrangelo at 17:10 of the second period to break a scoreless tie. It was the Blues' first goal in 121 minutes, 58 seconds.
The power-play tally was set up when Chicago defenseman David Rundblad took a double-minor for high-sticking Jori Lehtera. Jaskin's last goal came March 1 in a 6-5 overtime loss to Vancouver.
''Nice job by (Pietrangelo) getting the shot on net and it was a lucky bounce right to me,'' Jaskin said. ''I've been waiting for a lucky bounce like that for a long while.''
Andrew Shaw scored for Chicago, which has lost three in a row and is guaranteed to open the playoffs on the road.
Stastny converted on a 3-on-1 break off a pass from Jaden Schwartz at 14:05 of the third period for a 2-0 lead.
''There seems to be breakdowns at certain points in the third period that are hurting us,'' Chicago center Jonathan Toews said. ''That was the case tonight when we were down a goal.''
Shaw cut the deficit to 2-1 with his 15th goal of the season with 2:39 remaining.
Allen, who improved to 8-2-2 since Feb.1, stopped 38 shots in the Blues' 2-1 win Sunday in Chicago. His biggest save Thursday came early in the third period when he stopped Bryan Bickell from point-blank range while nursing a 1-0 lead.
''It was pretty cool to close it out at home over the Hawks,'' Allen said. ''It was great to be out there with the guys. We'll celebrate tonight and get back to work tomorrow.''
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford made 23 saves and fell to 32-20-5.
The Hawks have lost their last three games by 2-1 scores.
''At the end of the day, you've got to get your power play working,'' Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. ''We've got to get some ugly goals and there's a price to pay to have success both ways.''
Notes: Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues' leading scorer with 36 goals, missed his fifth successive game with a lower body injury. St. Louis forward Alex Steen missed his sixth game in a row, also with a lower body injury. Both players participated in the morning skate and could be ready Saturday against Minnesota, Hitchcock said ... The Blues are 7-2 in their last nine home games against Chicago. ... The Blues had lost four of their previous five home games. ... Chicago closes the regular season Saturday at Colorado. ... The crowd of 19,751 was the Blues' 22nd sellout of the season.